The script for this writes itself: Critics on the right will call it “the hug-a-terrorist strategy.” Idealists on the left will applaud Edwards for striking at the “root causes” of terrorism.
Both will miss the point, just as the former Senator’s proposal for 10,000 volunteers to help people in underdeveloped countries misses the point about terrorism.
His re-treaded Peace Corps solution recalls the old Yiddish joke about the bystander who keeps yelling at those treating a heart-attack victim to give him an enema. When an exasperated doctor asks how an enema would help a dying man, the answer is “It couldn’t hoit.”
Investing in poverty-stricken areas “couldn’t hoit,” but it won’t make a dent, as Edwards hopes, in persuading millions of people “sitting on the fence” to become our friends instead of terrorist enemies.
This morning, I received an e-mail from Kiva about the status of my micro-loans to small-business owners in Togo, Ecuador, Samoa and the Ukraine. Reaching out to help others is an American tradition but, as a solution to terrorism, it’s a band-aid on a gaping wound.
Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a conference on Asian security last weekend, "One of the disturbing things about many of the terrorists... is that these are not ignorant, poor people. These are educated people, often from professional families. So dealing with poverty and those issues is not going to eliminate the problem, but it certainly can reduce the pool of people prepared to give their lives for this cause."
So all cynicism about political motives aside, give
Edwards an “A” for altruism but a “C” for coherence.